CAL title repeat will be tough

Sacred Hearts 12 -Mandy Buirch looks for an opening during a game against Washington Township held at Mainland High School. Sunday February 12 2012 . (The Press of Atlantic City/ Anthony Smedile)

The Sacred Heart High School girls basketball team has a tradition of success unparalleled among most Cape-Atlantic League girls basketball teams.

The Lions may rely on that winning tradition to help them through the season. Sacred Heart lost five of its top seven players from last year's team, which won the program's first ever CAL championship in the inaugural playoff tournament.

However, Sacred Heart usually finds ways to win regardless of circumstance. The Lions have won 20 or more games in each of the past six seasons.

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Coach Steve DiPatri sees promise in the program's new additions.

"We have some reserves and newcomers ready to step up who have been seasoned over the past summer and fall," said Steve DiPatri, in his 16th season as the Sacred Heart coach.

Sacred Heart will look to two talented returning starters to guide the young team. Senior Mandy Buirch and junior Kennedy Johnson were integral parts of last winter's 25-2 season.

Buirch, a 5-foot-9 guard, made lots of big-game plays for the Lions. Johnson, a 6-2 center, scored 13.1 points per game and gives the team a serious post presence.

"We possess size and some battle-tested veterans," DiPatri said.

How the new players fare during the season will decide where Sacred Heart will end up. If history says anything, then Sacred Heart will be a contender, even in a year of turnover.

Contact Brittany Grugan:



League: Cape-Atlantic League United

Group: South Jersey Non-Public B

Coach: Steve DiPatri (331-82, 15 seasons)

2011-12 record: 25-2

2012-13 prediction: Contender

Key returnees: Mandy Buirch, Sr., 5-9, G; Kennedy Johnson, Jr., 6-2, C; Alyssa Ferrucci, Sr., 5-4, G.

Top newcomers: Brooke Farside, Sr., 5-4, F; Gabbi Sorantino, Sr., 6-1, F; Amanda Goff, Jr., 5-7, F; Colbi Morgan, Jr., 5-6, F; Ciani Carter, So., 5-5, G; Alyssa Fabrizio, So., 5-4, G; Dayne Aulffo, Fr., 5-2, G; Khalia Smith, Fr., 6-1, F/C.


Dec. 14: at Wildwood Catholic, 7 p.m.

Dec. 15: vs. Atlantic City (at Ocean City Tipoff Tournament) Noon

Dec. 17: at Atlantic County Institute of Technology, TBD Dec. 20 vs. Pleasantville, 7 p.m.

Dec. 28: Caravel (Del.) (at St. Elizabeth Tournament), 5:45 p.m.

Dec. 30: TBD (at St. Elizabeth Tournament)

Jan. 3: at St. Joseph, 7 p.m.

Jan. 5: vs. Vineland, 5:30 p.m.

Jan. 7: at Cape May Tech, 5:30 p.m.

Jan. 10: at Buena Regional, 5:30 p.m.

Jan. 14: vs. Cedar Creek, 7 p.m.

Jan. 21: vs. Woodrow Wilson (at Kingsway), Noon

Jan. 22: vs. Wildwood Catholic, 7 p.m.

Jan. 24: vs. Atlantic County Institute of Technology, 7 p.m

Jan. 26: vs. Egg Harbor Township (Hoops Mountain Shootout), 5:15 p.m.

Jan. 28: at Pleasantville, 4:30 p.m.

Jan. 31: vs. St. Joseph, 7 p.m.

Feb. 2: South Jersey Invitational Tournament at Eastern, TBD

Feb. 4: vs. Cape May Tech, 7 p.m.

Feb. 7: vs. Buena Regional, 7 p.m.

Feb. 11: at Cedar Creek, 5:30 p.m

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